Friday, May 03, 2013

My Riley

Riley Runyon, Our Best Friend (2000-May 2, 2013)

My husband and I loved our apartment, nestled among trees and greenery.  It was our oasis. Yet we dreamed of moving into our own house.  I wanted my own dog and a big backyard for him to play in.  Nearly 10 months after moving into our own home, a fixer upper to be sure, my husband agreed I could finally get my dog.

It broke my heart, walking through the numerous animal shelters, seeing all those dogs locked behind bars, without homes to go to.  I got teary-eyed more than once along the way.  My husband and I had slightly different ideas of what kind of dog we wanted, but given Anjin was the one who was reluctant about the idea  (he isn't a dog person), I let him take the lead.  When we first saw Riley, he was very eager to please.  He came right up to the bars of his kennel, tail wagging so hard his entire backside shook.  He was adorable. We were allowed to visit with him in a private room at the shelter, where Riley, as soon as he walked in the door, went to my husband.  A sign.  The shelter staff told us Riley was 2 years old, which is the age we were looking for.  The vet later told us he was more likely 1 year old.  It didn't matter.  Close enough and we were already smitten.

It wasn't an easy adjustment at first.  There were tears.  Doubts that we'd made the right decision.  Not about Riley in particular, but about taking such a young dog in.  I knew what we might expect on an intellectual level, but dealing with it all in person was a bit of a culture shock.  My husband and I had been on our own so long and suddenly we had someone else to take care of too.  I grew up with dogs, but my last childhood dog had been with us for 14 years.  I'd been a lot younger when we took her in.  As often happens, we got through those early baby blue days and Riley became a big part of our family.


I always joked that it was obvious Riley was adopted.  He had a boundless amount of energy that lasted him well into his senior years.  My husband and I have always been much more sedentary.   It wasn't until last year that he started to slow down.  He was diagnosed with arthritis in his back and put on medication that helped for awhile.  I scratched his head and told him, "We're getting old, ol' boy."  

I still remember the first day we brought him home, July 10, 2001, how shy he was, how cautious.  He still wasn't sure of us or of this new environment we were putting him in. We let him explore the house at his own pace.  At one point I had washed my hands and flicked water on him before drying my hands.  He took off like a shot and hid under our bed.  I felt bad.  Eventually he came to like my doing that and thought it was a game.  

The first time we heard him bark was in our backyard on that first day home.  He let out a deep clear bark.  We hadn't been sure he could bark.  The woman at the shelter claimed he was a Basenji mix and Basenji's cannot bark.  They make a yodel like sound instead.  Well, whatever other kind of dog Riley had in his blood, he must have got his bark from the other part of him.  

I loved Riley's coloring. Mostly white with patches of brown here and there.  He had a couple of paw prints on his back; at least that's what they looked like. He was beautiful.  He was slender in form, a smallish medium sized dog.  I swear sometimes I could see him smiling.  

Anjin and I struggled long and hard to come up with his name. I am not sure where Riley came from in the end, only that it came to me suddenly and we both knew it was the perfect name for him.  Wiley Riley.  

Riley was an escape artist.  he often dug under the fence and got into the neighbors' yards during his earlier years.  Occasionally he'd bolt out the front door if we weren't watching close enough--sometimes even when we were.  He loved to explore and go on walks.  During his unapproved outings, we would chase him around the block, not realizing the more we chased, the farther he'd go.  It took a few times before we realized if we stayed at our house, he'd come back.  Like a toddler exerting his independence, he needed to know we were close before he would continue too far.

He loved to be chased--and to chase.  He enjoyed a good game of tug-a-war.  He loved playing fetch most of all.  He could do that for hours, whether inside or out.  He was obsessed with balls and any type of throwing object really.

I loved how excited he would get after a bath, running around the house at full speed.  He sometimes did that--the tuck-butt-and-run routine, as we came to call it.  Getting out his excess energy.  Everyone in the house would stand still wherever they were, least he run into us and knock us down.  


Oh, how he hated baths!  He'd try to hide at bath times and sit or stand there and shiver as he waited out the ordeal.  I always felt so bad for him.  He always sat well for my husband when he got his nails trimmed though.  And he loved to be brushed.

He loved going for walks.  He was good with other dogs. although he preferred smaller dogs to the bigger ones.  And he was quite the jumper.  Boy, could he jump!  When we replaced the fence in the backyard of our first house, we made sure to get a six foot fence. Even then, Riley probably could have scaled it if he tried hard enough.

His enthusiasm when I came home from work or from running errands knew no bounds.  Anyone who has ever had a dog knows that there's nothing that can compare to the greeting you get from your dog when you walk in the door.  He'd nearly knock me down, his tail wagging fiercely.

Riley favored me of everyone in our house.  He was definitely my dog.  I had taken a couple weeks off work when we first brought him home and he and I bonded during that time.  Riley would follow me everywhere he could.  He was my shadow.  Even though he was a bit too big, he was very much a lap dog.  Whenever I would sit on the couch, he was right there, sprawled across my lap.  When I sat at my computer, he jumped up and curled up behind me in the chair so that I would have to sit on the edge.  

My dad was another of Riley's favorite humans.  When my dad when come to visit, he spent much of his time playing with Riley, throwing him the ball and sitting with and talking to and petting him.  Others did that with Riley too, of course, but my dad was a dog person through and through, and loved Riley like he was his own.  I know it must have confused Riley when my mom started visiting without my dad.


Eight months after Riley joined our family, I brought home a stray cat that had been living in the parking lot of the courthouse where I was assigned at the time.  He was just a little guy, an orange tabby, not even a year old.  My husband had grown up with cats and he and Riley's relationship was at times strained.  I wasn't sure how it would work, especially with my allergy to cats or how Riley and the kitten would take to each other.  There were moments on that first day we doubted it would work, but by the end of the day, after our consistent efforts to get the two acclimated to each other, they became fast friends.  Our cat, Parker, adored Riley.  He'd rub against his legs, initiate play and even tried to cuddle up to Riley.  Unfortunately, Riley was never much of a cuddler unless it was with an adult human.

It was the four of us for a number of years.  We grew closer together each day and life was good.  Riley eventually stopped chewing everything in sight but retained his overflowing energy.  Always in motion (except when we cuddled together).



A few years later we added another cat to the mix.  And while Riley and Anya got along great from the start (Anya was just a kitten), it took a long time for Parker to warm up to Anya.  Much like Parker, she adored Riley and would bat at him from the top of the coffee table when Riley walked by, teasing him and encouraging him to play.  She was even more of an instigator than Parker ever was.  

Things changed considerably when we brought Mouse home from the hospital.  I had done little things here and there to prepare the animals for her homecoming, but Riley, who'd for years had my undivided attention, suddenly had competition.  He was jealous.  And I was unable to give him the same kind of attention he'd had before. It didn't help that I was going through Postpartum Depression either.  We often think in terms of how it affects the other humans in the house, especially ourselves, but it also impacts the animals.


I had hoped Riley would take to Mouse the way you see in those pictures--with babies and dogs cuddling up together.  Riley clearly didn't like Mouse initially, to the point where I wondered if I would have to do the unthinkable and re-home Riley.  Fortunately, my mom and a fellow dog lover talked some sense into me.  Riley was my forever dog, had been with me for all those years and was my first baby, and what we needed most was time to adjust to each other. It was rough going that first year, especially when Mouse became mobile.  We stuck it out though, and while I can't say Riley bonded with Mouse quite the way I had hoped, the two did eventually become friends.  At least, they found a way to co-exist happily.  Mouse enjoyed chasing Riley around the house and took to sitting with me and petting him when he was feeling at his worst.  She even offered him kisses to help him feel better and a pillow when he was resting under a blanket.  I loved it when we'd walk into the house after we'd been out and she would say, "We're home, Riley! We're home!"  I don't know that she ever really understood why she couldn't eat Riley's treats too, although she did like to give him treats--and often gave him her own food, on purpose and by accident.   

Riley held onto his youth for so long I began to think he was invincible.  I used to tell him he wasn't allowed to die.  These past three months, as his health went into a significant decline, I began telling him it was okay if he wanted to let go, not to hold on just because of me.  After numerous vet visits and different medications, we saw improvement and then the cycle would repeat.  Yesterday it got to be too much.  Tests showed that Riley had neurological damage complicated by recurring pneumonia.  We could have treated him further, but the prognosis was extremely poor.  My husband and I had to make the hardest decision of our lives.  We decided to let him go.  The doctors were wonderful and kind.  They agreed we were making the best decision for Riley.

The memories are flowing through me right now.  I can still hear the jingle of Riley's collar as he wanders around the house.  I can hear the pitter patter of his feet on the kitchen floor.  Out of the corner of my eye, I sometimes catch him running after a ball in the backyard.  I catch myself calling to him and looking for him.  It will be awhile before I stop going to the back door to let him out, I am sure.

Riley was my best friend.  He was my baby.  Words cannot express the love I feel for him.

Today Riley is with my dad.  They are playing fetch, no doubt. 

I love you, Riley.  Take care of him for me, Dad.    I miss you both so much.



© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

56 comments:

  1. What a beautiful testament to a wonderful dog. I have tears in my eyes right now :*) I hope you and yours are doing okay, I'll be thinking of you!

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    1. Jennifer - Thank you for your thoughts. Riley truly was wonderful. There was something about him. He was so kind and had such a gentle heart. I miss him very much.

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  2. That is such a beautiful tribute to your sweet Riley. These little guys are a part of our life, they have a presence in a room, and when they aren't there any more, there is a huge hole that remains. I'm so sorry that you had to go through that. It is such a hard decision, but it is also so hard to see them suffer. I'll say a prayer for you all. The most important thing is that you let yourself grieve.

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    1. Sandy - Thank you so much, Sandy. Yes, they become our world. I feel such sadness and the house seems so empty without him. I know it will get easier as the time passes, but right now the pain is so intense. I feel so lucky to have had Riley in my life. He brought me such joy and comfort.

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  3. I cried as I read your post. I am so sorry and know what you're going through. We had to have our precious Milou euthanized last October and we're not over it yet. As she was slipping from this world, I told her to look for my dad and I'm sure she's with him right now.

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    1. Kathy - Thank you. I remember Milou. And I know it must not have been easy for you. I told Riley something similar: to look for my dad, that I knew he was waiting to play ball with him. I miss them both.

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  4. Wendy, I'm so sorry about Riley. I've been there - I know how hard it is to lose a pet, a member of the family. Our Maggie is nearing the end of her life and I don't know how I'll handle it when her time is up. {{Hugs}}

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    1. Lynne - Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. The aging process isn't always kind, is it? I hope your Maggie has many more good days, weeks, months and years ahead of her.

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  5. A beautiful tribute! I have tears in my eyes!

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  6. Oh Wendy, I know how this feels. I am so very sorry for your loss. *hugs*

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    1. Wendy - Thank you. I know you understand. Your dogs are such an important part of your life.

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  7. What a beautiful tribute. Riley was as lucky to have you as you were to have him. ((Hugs))

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    1. SuziQ - Thank you for your kind words. I feel so blessed to have had Riley in my life. He taught me so much over the years.

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  8. I'm so sorry for you loss Wendy. This was a beautiful post and it brought tears to my eyes. My thoughts are with you...I know how hard it is to lose a pet that is part of the family!

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    1. Samantha - Thank you so much, Sam. I see reminders of him everywhere. I know it will get easier, but right now it is so painful.

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  9. Wendy, I am so very sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is like losing one's family member --at least for me. HUGS and Happy memories.

    Your post brought tears to my eyes...so very heartfelt.

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    1. Diane - Thank you. I know exactly what you mean. Riley was a big part of our family. His death has left us all feeling the hole he's left behind.

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  10. I enjoyed reading your lovely tribute of a beloved family pet. I am so sorry for your loss.

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  11. The tears are flowing for you and for Riley. You were lucky to have found each other. Hugs.

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    1. Stacy - Thank you so much. I feel so lucky to have had Riley in my life. He was such a good dog. So loving and kind. I miss him so much.

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  12. Oh this has made me all teary eyed, thinking about our little Scampy who left us a little too soon. What a wonderful tribute. And yes, your father and Riley must be playing catch somewhere up there.

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    1. Neer - Thank you. It is so hard to say goodbye to our beloved fur friends, isn't it? I hope Scampy and Riley get a chance to meet and play together.

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  13. I can't stop tell you how sorry I am, Wendy. I agree wholeheartedly with Sandy, its so important to let yourself grieve. That was a beautiful tribute, the part at the end about your dad and Riley together opened the floodgates over here. I hope you are able to find comfort. Love and hugs!

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    1. Nicole - Thank you so much, Nicole. It helped to write this. I've been going through old pictures. He will always be in my heart. Just as Sophie will be in yours. I am sorry for your recent loss too.

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  14. Hopefully what I write will make sense as I'm crying while typing this. What a beautiful tribute to Riley. He was definitely a family member and a very loved one at that. Thanks for sharing all of those memories with us. Having lost Bruce just two short years ago, I can understand your hurting heart and I know that many of us know exactly how you and your family are feeling. I'm know that Riley and your Dad are together and that such a comfort.

    Take care, my friend and give yourself time to grieve.

    Hugs,
    Staci

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    1. Staci - Thank you, Staci. He was very much a part of my family. It's been really hard. He was my shadow, following me around everywhere. I turn around and expect him there, but he's gone. I appreciate all of the kind thoughts and prayers. It means a lot to me. I know some might say he was just a dog--but those of us who have loved an animal know our pets are much more than that to us.

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  15. Wendy, I am so sorry. Riley was a beautiful boy. I hope he is playing with your dad. :-)

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    1. Steph - Thank you. He was a beautiful dog, wasn't he? I can picture he and my dad right now, running and playing.

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  16. Such a moving tribute to an obviously well loved member of the family. My thoughts are with you.

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  17. What a beautiful tribute to such a special dog. It brought tears to my eyes. I'm so sorry for your loss. ((HUGS))

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  18. Oh Wendy, I'm so sorry! Thank you for sharing your story of Riley. Hugs to you!

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  19. Oh Wendy, you know how I feel about your loss. He was so precious, and a part of the family, and now he's gone. You gave him such a loving home.

    I have to add that the same thing happened to me with our cat Bandit, when I was suffering from Post-Partum Depression. It was so hard to give her any time too. Eventually I was able to, and she forgave me. So did Riley for you, my friend. Big hugs from here in Ottawa.

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    1. Susan - Thank you. Riley was a very happy and loving dog, and I know he had a good life. I sure do miss him.

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  20. I'm sorry Wendy, losing a pet is so hard.

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  21. I am so sorry for your loss. They are a member of the family for sure. I always looked for pics and stories of Riley in your posts. We have two rat terriers and he reminds of that breed.
    It was thru Riley that I started checking in on your site. I believe he did an "interview" or somesuch on another blog i was reading at the time and so I went to your site too.
    My tears, and prayers are with you.

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    1. Carla - Thank you so much, Carla! I wouldn't be surprised if Riley had a bit of rat terrier in him. I am glad you found me through him. :-)

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  22. I'm sorry to hear the news, it's an incredibly difficult time and it does take a while to get used to it. But you gave him the best, giving him a new happy life, and that's so important. This is a wonderful tribute.

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    1. Charlie - Thank you for your kind words.

      My daughter has started asking about Riley. She is still too young to really understand. She loved him in her own way and I know she misses him too.

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  23. I'm so sorry to hear that. *hug* It's good that he has your dad to keep him company in heaven now.

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  24. I'm so sorry to hear about Riley, Wendy. (Hugs) Losing a pet is always hard.

    Thanks for sharing your life with Riley with us. That's a beautiful tribute to Riley.

    * Sorry I'm late in commenting here as I don't check on Google Reader daily.

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  25. So sorry to hear you've lost Riley; what a lovely tribute to a member of your family who will always be with you in your heart.

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    1. Lisa - Thank you. Yes, he will always be in my heart. I am so blessed to have known him.

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  26. I'm sorry to hear of your loss. Your Riley reminds me a bit of my Zook. He's a yodeler, and while he's thought to be part Chihuahua/part Italian Greyhound, I've often wondered whether he could have part Basenji in him. And within a couple weeks of bringing him home, when he was only four months, I told other that I was already dreading losing him in 15 years. I'd already bonded that strongly with him. There is a special bond with your dog. I have four cats, and had to put a fifth one down last year (she had lymphoma), and I can tell you that as much as I love my cats, losing a dog is so much more impacting. They are truly part of your family, you are part of their pack. They view you as a dog (or themselves as humans- I've never figured out which), and the loss of losing them is profound. But I'm happy that all of you had so many wonderful years together, and he was lucky to have had people who stuck by him through the tough times and realized he just needed a little extra patience and time. My condolences.

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    1. Nfmgirl - Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts. Zook sounds like a terrific dog. They come to mean so much to us so quickly, don't they? I often thought Riley thought he was human. :-) And you are right. We had many many wonderful years together. I will always hold onto those memories.

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  27. This made me cry. I know exactly how you feel. It is so hard losing a fur baby. Your stories about Riley reminded me of our little Miss Sunshine. She was a pain in the butt, when Eldest brought her home from school as a tiny stray found by the teacher. She attacked feet with claws for at least 3 years. But, she turned out to be the most intelligent cat I've ever met. Sunshine greeted me at the door, followed me everywhere, brought me nice gifts (a stuffed parrot was her favorite), took naps with me, let me carry her around like a baby . . . and was absolutely determined to make me her best buddy. Well, it worked. I fell so completely in love with her that I couldn't imagine life without her. And, then she got cancer and was gone in months. She was the same age as Riley -- so young for a cat. We will always miss her. Much as I love my other cats, there was just something extra special about Sunshine.

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    1. Nancy - It sounds like your Sunshine was a beautiful and wonderful cat. Riley was a handful, especially during his younger years, but he made up for it in love and affection. He'll always have a special place in my heart.

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  28. I am so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you and your family.

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